Fr David O'Malley: Article 18

Synod 18

This is what article 18 of the synod says....

While parishes remain the primary and principal way of constituting the Church in any particular area, it was also observed that parishes struggle to appeal to young people and that their missionary vocation needs to be rethought.  Their low profile in urban areas, their lack of original and constructive ideas, and rapidly changing lifestyles all call for a renewal of parish life.  Despite various attempts at innovation, the life and activities of the young often flow past the community, without really encountering it.

Fr David at 2019 Salesian Schools Conference, image: Salesian Link (Salesians GB)

Fr David at 2019 Salesian Schools Conference, image: Salesian Link (Salesians GB)

I have rarely seen such a hard hitting description of parish life in the context of the needs of young people. It is obvious that the Fathers of The Synod recognise that parishes are not meeting peoples' deeper spiritual needs. Many of our parishes have an inward-looking focus which aims to meet the needs of a a shrinking worshipping community rather than turning outwards to respond to the spiritual hungers around them. All church activity needs to be missionary: moving out to the margins, adapting relationships, finding fresh language, listening to peoples needs and engaging with the heart within the local community.

Young people in the church have the ability to rub salt into the wounds of the compromises with the Gospel made by an older church. We need young people to be more than present in parishes, they also need to be leading in such a way that new energy flows into the benches, the liturgy and into the pastoral outreach of the parish community. The Salesians have been saying this for decades. Young Catholics have learnt to practice their faith without attending parishes but they still identify as Catholics especially through catholic social teaching. The Catholic schools in the UK have done an amazing job in maintaining catholic identity, in building Gospel awareness and in promoting justice and peace among young people yet they are regularly and unfairly criticised because the young people are not always in touch with the dogmatic dimension of church.

Parish life needs to come out of the cocoon of an immigrant minority church in Great Britain and engage with the whole population, root itself in a wider community and open up the spiritual treasure of the church for a people that hungers for meaning more than just dogma.

Fr David O’Malley is a Salesian of Don Bosco who has responsibility for their schools team and network in the UK. He has long experience in the classroom and in chaplaincy. He has studied and written extensively on the Salesian dimension of education in school and in youth ministry.

Fr David O'Malley SDB